By September 17, 2009

Blackberry Curve 8520 Review

The Blackberry Curve 8520 (codename Gemini) is the latest device to be released by RIM and it is supposedly a low end handset. However, there are a couple of things which I personally prefer over the popular Curve 8900. Read on to find out what they are……

Blackberry Curve 8520

Blackberry Curve 8520

The ten second review:

Device: Blackberry Curve 8520

Summary: A low end messaging device but does it so well.

Best of: BlackBerry email, WiFi, Superb Keypad.

Worst of: No 3G, No GPS

Price: £224.25

What’s in the box?

  • Device
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Headset
  • USB Cable
  • Software
  • Manual/Quick start guide

Have a look at Matt’s BlackBerry Curve 8520 unboxing video for more

Blackberry Curve 8520 Gemini Specification:

  • Dimensions:- 109 x 60 x 13.9mm
  • Weight: 106g
  • Battery:- Talk Time: 4.5 hrs / Standby Time: 408 hrs
  • Display:- 320 x 240 pixels/2.46″
  • Network:- GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band)
  • Camera:- 2 mega-pixels (auto-focus)
  • Video:- Supported formats: MP4, 3GP, H.264, & WMV
  • Music:- Supported formats: MP3, AAC, eAAC+ & WMA
  • Messaging:- SMS / MMS / E-mail (POP3, SMTP, IMAP4, BlackBerry, MS Exchange)
  • Instant Messaging (MSN)
  • Memory:- 256 MB (internal) / microSDHC (external)
  • Navigation:- BlackBerry Maps
  • Security:- Remote Lock / Device and memory card encryption
  • Features :- Optical Pad, Dedicated Media Keys

General

The top of the device contains some rather nice media function keys.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Top View

Curve 8520 Top View

The left side of the phone houses the USB port, 3.5 mm headset jack and also the voice dialling activation key.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Left Side

Curve 8520 Left Side

The up/down volume rocker and a dedicated camera key can be found on the right side.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Right Side

Curve 8520 Right Side

The back of the Blackberry houses only the camera lens.

8520 Back View

Curve 8520 Back View

The front of the handset looks just like you would expect a Blackberry to look.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Front View

Curve 8520 Front

Highlights:

  • Optical Trackpad
  • Blackberry email

Lowlights

  • No 3G
  • No GPS
  • No Camera Flash

Review:

Dubbed as a low end device the Blackberry Curve 8520 is similar to the Curve 8900 in many ways but it is just missing a few things. The main features missing are no GPS, smaller battery and the camera is 2mp compared to 3.15mp on the 8900.

However, this will clearly make the phone cheaper to buy and I think it could do very well as a pay as you go device. It is listed as coming soon as PAYG on the Orange website.

Never owning a Blackberry before I was pretty excited about getting this latest addition to the Blackberry family. I particularly wanted to see what all the hype was about as just a few weeks ago RIM was named as the fastest growing company in the world with its profits up 84% over the last three years!

There is no doubt that the 8520 is a nice looking device. Its pure black, unlike the Curve 8900 which has a silver band around its casing, and oozes the fact that it a Blackberry hardcore messaging device.

It’s smooth and shiny and if it could talk it would probably be saying “Hey, check me out ladies!”

It’s slightly lighter in weight than the Curve 8900 and certainly feels it. So lightweight in fact that it feels a bit toy like. The battery cover in particular feels cheap and I wonder how it will be over months and months of daily handling.

So how did I find using the Blackberry operating system for the first time? It was really simple and I would imagine that is one of the things that attracts and keep Blackberry customers.

There was nothing too complicated and navigating the menus was smooth.

Speaking of navigation, the Curve 8520 has a small feature which sets it apart from the popular previous Curves and the Bold. It doesn’t have a trackball. Instead it has an optical trackpad. Although these have been used by other manufactures for a while I believe this is RIMs first and I think they have made a good choice. When I knew I was getting the 8520 to review I popped down to my local Orange Retail store to have a quick play with the Curve 8900. Not in any great depth but I just wanted to get a feel for the trackball as I knew I would have to compare it with the trackpad.

Now which is better will certainly come down to personal choice but I defiantly would go for the trackpad. I have subsequently had a go on a friends 8900 and again much preferred the pad over the ball.

The speed that the trackpad works can be altered which is nice.

Another thing I was very impressed with was the screen. It’s nice and bright and the images are crisp and bold. In addition, viewing photos that have been taken with the camera look really colourful and bright.

Probably the most important aspect of the device is the keyboard.

8520 Keyboard

The Blackberry Curve 8520 Keyboard

With any messaging device the quality and layout of the keys are paramount. Luckily RIM have made a fantastic job of the 8520. The keys are of a decent size and there is just the right amount of spacing between them. Not only do you feel a click when you press any of the keys but you can also hear it as well which is a feature I like.

Compared to other devices I would say that the keyboard on the 8520 is pretty near the top of the pile. The keys are smaller than on a Blackberry Bold but bigger than on several Palm devices still on the market, including the forthcoming Palm Pre. A few months ago I reviewed the HTC Snap and gave its keyboard a super review. In my opinion I found typing slightly better on the Snap but there is nothing wrong with the 8520 and I was able to compose messages pretty much mistake free. The device allows for easy one handed use as well as two handed which will suit some people. I’m a big fan of slide out keyboards so using the smaller front facing ones is always a bit of a challenge for me!

On to the camera. At 2mp it is never going to be great but as I said earlier, viewing photos on the device is good. Once the photos were on my computer they were actually better than I thought they would be. Still a little grainy but for 2mp not bad at all.

I don’t think that buyers of this device are going to have the camera at the top of there required features list.

Listening to music through the speaker was reasonable. The speaker is fairly loud but a little “tinny” and this made the “Metallica test” not so good. Once the Blackberry headphones were plugged in, this improved things but using my own headphones was better. The supplied ones also look and feel really cheap.

Web browsing on a non touch handset is never something I look forward too but the 8520 was not bad at all. The optical trackpad controls an onscreen mouse arrow and the experience was better than on similar devices. The web pages were a little slow to load and using the menu to select bookmarks etc was also more hassle than on a touch screen device but if you are going to own one of these phones you will soon adjust.

The 8520 does have WiFi but lacks 3G which is a real shame.

The main reason to buy a Blackberry has to be for email. I had a slight problem setting up my email on the device. I couldn’t. After several hours researching on the internet how to do so I discovered that I needed to register the device with my network provider. I didn’t want to use the Blackberry server, just my pop3 yahoo account but that wasn’t easy. After speaking with Orange they told me that the only way they could do it would be for me to sign up for Blackberry Services at a cost of just over four pounds a month. Now normally this would not be an issue but in order for them to do this they would need to remove my existing data package of 500mb and replace it with the Blackberry one (250mb). I didn’t want them touching my existing package as last time they did they forgot to put it back on and I had a bill for £900.00! Of course they credited me but I didn’t want the hassle so I told them I wouldn’t bother.

So, I have not been able to use the email feature myself but I do have a little story about my friend Phil. A few weeks ago Phil came to the end of his mobile contract and decided to switch carriers and get a HTC Hero on Orange. He was pretty happy with the device but eventually decided to order a Blackberry Curve 8900 from O2 to compare and then send one device back. His exact words to me on Sunday were “The Hero is a much better device in nearly everyway but there is just something about the Blackberry”. So the Hero went back and he is more than happy with his Blackberry and the dozens of emails he sends from it everyday.

If your bored don’t worry, that’s the end of the story!

Conclusion:

The Blackberry 8520 is without doubt a decent device. I think it will have a limited market though as it is lacking a few features compared to the Curve 8900, however the new trackpad may just swing it for some people.

I’m sure that the network providers that release it as a PAYG handset will do relatively well with sales but that will obviously be dependant on price.

In this review I have covered the main features/selling points of the device but if you have any questions please feel free to ask using the forum. I will have the device for another week so please register on the forum and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Review by: James

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
Tags: , ,

About the Author:

Five year veteran of the site. BlackBerry specialist, but experienced in most operating systems. Enjoys flower arranging and cross stitch.
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